News / Middle East

Syria Talks End With No Breakthrough

UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi gestures during a stakeout following a meeting with top US and Russian officials on the Syrian conflict at the United Nations office in Geneva, January 11, 2013.
UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi gestures during a stakeout following a meeting with top US and Russian officials on the Syrian conflict at the United Nations office in Geneva, January 11, 2013.
Lisa SchleinEdward Yeranian
— International envoy Lakhdar Brahimi says talks with senior U.S. and Russian officials in Geneva ended Friday without a breakthrough about how to end the civil war in Syria.

Brahimi held closed-door talks Friday at United Nations' European headquarters in Switzerland with Russian Deputy Foreign Ministry Mikhail Bogdanov and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns.

The discussions focused on the implementation of a plan for ending the war, which was proposed by the Action Group for Syria in June.

The plan calls for an immediate cease-fire and for the establishment of a transitional government that could include officials serving under President Bashar al-Assad and opposition groups.  

Afterwards, Brahimi told reporters all sides underscored the need for a political solution to the crisis.  But he acknowledged that resolving the crisis in the near future is not likely.

"If you are asking me whether a solution is around the corner, I'm not sure that is the case," he said. "What I am certain of, is that it is, there is an absolute necessity for people to continue to work for such a peaceful solution."

  • Demonstrators hold banners during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, after Friday prayers in Kafranbel, near Idlib, Syria, January 11, 2013 in this picture provided by Shaam News Network.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter uses binoculars near the Menagh military airport, in Aleppo's countryside, Syria, January 10, 2013.
  • A damaged car and buildings covered with snow are seen in the Jouret al Shayah area of Homs, Syria, January 10, 2013.
  • Residents evacuate their houses after being targeted by missiles fired by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Aleppo's al-Mashhad district, Syria, January 9, 2013.
  • Children sit next to a fire in Aleppo city, Syria, January 9, 2013.
  • Civilians and Free Syrian Army fighters gather at a site hit by a missile in Aleppo's al-Mashhad district, Syria, January 7, 2013.
  • People help a wounded person after a missile hit Aleppo's al-Mashhad district, Syria, January 7, 2013.
  • This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad waving to his supporters after speaking at the Opera House in central Damascus, Syria, January 6, 2013.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters, wounded during the battle to capture Taftanaz air base, receive treatment at a field hospital in northern Idlib, Syria, January 6, 2013.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter feeds a cat in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, January 6, 2013.
  • A man rides his bicycle past buildings damaged by shelling in the old city of Aleppo, Syria, January 6, 2013.
  • A family crosses a street piled with garbage in Aleppo, Syria, January 5, 2013.

Rebels claim gains

Friday's meeting comes as rebels reportedly seized a key Syrian military air base after several days of fighting.

Rebel fighters stormed the government compound at Taftanaz helicopter base in Idlib province. Arab media reported that rebels later evacuated the building after government artillery hit the base from a nearby town.

A rebel commander told Al Arabiya TV that five rebel brigades took part in capturing the base and received help from fighters of the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra. The commander said dozens of government soldiers were captured, along with tanks, armored vehicles and boxes of munitions.

The Syrian government has not responded to the claims.

Riad Kahwaji, who heads the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said a number of other government airports and military bases are now under rebel siege.

"The Taftanaz airport is the second largest helicopter base in the country," he said. "This is a huge base and the rebels persistently besieged it and now managed to over-run it, and these rebels have also besieged about four other airports, and other bases are under attack."

Aleppo offensive

Witnesses also said that government forces mounted an offensive in the center of Aleppo, Syria's most populous city, in a bid to break out of a rebel siege.  Government soldiers continue to hold the historic Aleppo citadel and swathes of territory to the east and south of the city.

Rebel commanders in Damascus say that an explosion targeted a convoy carrying top military officials from a security meeting Friday at the presidential palace.  They said that the Iranian ambassador, several Hezbollah commanders and four Russian generals were in that convoy.

There was no government confirmation of the report.

Government forces have been trying to extract rebels from around the capital in recent days, but successes have been limited.

Analyst Kahwaji says the rebels have been making slow, but steady progress.

"It's not a stalemate, because the rebels are making gains," he said. "It's slow progress, but it seems to be a steady progress."

Regime still strong
 
But analyst Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group said the Assad regime still has significant assets, including firepower and strategic tactical positions, which will make any rebel advance long and painful.

"It's quite obvious that the regime is being forced into a fighting retreat, but it remains a more potent enemy than the opposition or commentators abroad want to make of it," he said. "The regime has massive military assets in Damascus, is in control of a large and defensible area on the heights above the capital and also has significant social bases in that part of the country.”

Harling said that rebel forces have “failed to completely uproot the regime” from northern strongholds and he predicts the battle for the capital will be a “challenge” in the months to come.

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Comments
     
by: Michael from: USA
January 12, 2013 8:52 AM
Brahimi's peace plan for Syria extends to the breaking point the ability to imagine a 'new' Syria which would require Syria to be a thing. If it is a thing, then it can be perfected by negating all evil deeds done against it, but until we give up this idea, there can be no peace system that doesn't allow raw nature to set the agenda


by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
January 11, 2013 4:28 PM
It is very sad that a transitional agreement, leading to a cease fire has not being brokered. The plight of the civilians must be absolutely horrendous. It is also extremely terrible to see a Turkish army, and their usually granstanding PM, with one of the largest armies in the world, doing nothing to push through humanitarian corridors to help the civilians; and nothing to say about some the best armed/trained Muslim forces in the Gulf, they too should sart making safe humanitarian corridors, with their best equiped Air Forces in the world... I guess everyone is expecting the US/NATO to do the humanitarian relief preparatory/support work...as usual.


by: UsmcJimdaddy E Davis Isst
January 11, 2013 10:10 AM
Syrian rebels have mein blessing as they fight for their lives and for their freedom.

In Response

by: Anonymous
January 12, 2013 12:28 AM
Mine too... Their hard work and dedication to their country will prevail. I just hope justice is properly served to Bashar al Assad, hate to hear he kills himself once surrounded.

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